11/15/04 — Eulogies for Arafat: Now is a time for candor

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Eulogies for Arafat: Now is a time for candor

As is customary after a death, some world leaders are exalting Yasser Arafat and his life’s work. In truth, his legacy is one of carnage, of rejected opportunties for peace for his people, and of failure.

Nelson Mandela hailed him as an outstanding freedom fighter. Actually, he was a terrorist, first, last and always.

French President Jacques Chirac called him a man of conviction. He was a man of conviction, all right. His conviction was that the world must yield everything to him and his followers, and that its failure to do so would bring wanton death not only to his enemies but to whoever might happen to be on a crowded bus when a bomb went off.

Eulogies often miss the truth, but the truth needs to be spoken now. Arafat’s Palestinian underlings are looking for a new leader. To beatify Yasser Arafat, as some are doing, only encourages those of his ilk — those who would negotiate with lies and broken promises, who would forsake peace and prolong the ghastly hostilities between their people and Israel.

What they need to be doing, as they pick Arafat’s successor, is to learn from the history of his failure.

Arafat well knew that peace in his region of the world was possible, but he chose violence. He pretended to accept a truce negotiated by President Clinton at Camp David in 2000, and one by President Carter in 1978. Every president for years had met with him and sought to mediate an honorable agreement between the Palestinians and Israel. He would indicate agreement with the mediator and the Israeli side. He would have his picture taken with a big smile and a handshake. But it was always a lie. The killing always resumed.

Finally, President George W. Bush promised even more concessions, including a pledge that America would recognize a self-governed state of Palestine. Arafat still refused to stop the indiscriminate murders in Israel by suicide bombers.

He was responsible for innumerable Arab deaths, as well, particularly among Lebanese. There, he contributed to a bloody civil war by violating a pledge not to intervene in Lebanese affairs.

When he died, the Palestinian people were no better off, no closer to autonomy, than they had been when Arafat first entered politics by becoming a smuggler of arms from Egypt to the Palestinians at age 17.

After all those years, all that killing, the most that he had won for his people was shame. Exalting him now exalts the masked Hamas members and other young Palestinians who are eager to extend his cruel legacy by killing in his name. These people are not heroes, and neither was Yasser Arafat.

Published in Editorials on November 15, 2004 10:18 AM